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Research & Discussion

General biography

Rejected legend

Youth 1888-1914

War service 1914-1918

Diplomacy 1918-1922

Service years 1922-1935

Lawrence's personality

Writings and criticism

Lawrence and book production

Film, TV, radio

Book reviews

Bibliography & Collecting


Discussion list


Rejected Legend

Countless fictions have built up around Lawrence's life. In the early years, he himself may or may not have been responsible for some of them. A further sprinkling have been mistakes by biographers who were carried away by some appealingly novel theory. The huge majority, however, started life because a journalist, or biographer, or someone who had known Lawrence, wanted to make money by publishing a new and preferably sensational "revelation". That process is still going on.

The purpose here is to discuss and dismiss such myths, in the hope that they will not be endlessly repeated by biographers and others who have no opportunity - or too little time - to examine them closely. An initial list of myths to be examined is given below. In all these cases the balance of evidence leads to the conclusion that they are completely unfounded.

Some of the legends that will be discussed here:


That Lawrence was trained as a British 'Intelligence operative' while working as an archaeologist at Carchemish before the war.

Sources: Various, but notably P. Knightley and C. Simpson, The Secret Lives of Lawrence of Arabia,1969


That Lawrence failed to rescue Gasim, as claimed in Seven Pillars of Wisdom.

Source: Jon Loken (writing under the pseudonym 'J.N. Lockman') in Scattered Tracks on the Lawrence Trail, 1996


Online: That a wartime document proves that Lawrence could not have been at Deraa in November 1917, at the time of the incident alleged in Seven Pillars of Wisdom.

Source: Lawrence James, in The Golden Warrior, the Life and Legend of Lawrence of Arabia, 1990.

1917 et seq

Fictional testimony about Lawrence by Colonel Richard Meinertzhagen.

Source: R. Meinertzhagen, Middle East Diary,1959

1918 :

That the real name of Dahoum, known to be the central element in 'S.A.' (the dedicatee of Seven Pillars of Wisdom), was 'Salim Ahmed'.

Source: Tom Beaumont, in P. Knightley and C. Simpson, The Secret Lives of Lawrence of Arabia,1969


That Lawrence met Dahoum shortly before the latter's death in 1918.

Source: Tom Beaumont, in P. Knightley and C. Simpson, The Secret Lives of Lawrence of Arabia,1969


That Lawrence recruited John Bruce to his personal service before the two met at Bovington, as Tank Corps recruits.

Source: John Bruce, in his unpublished testimony, and in P. Knightley and C. Simpson, The Secret Lives of Lawrence of Arabia,1969


That Lawrence attended flagellation parties in Chelsea 'conducted by an underworld figure known as 'Bluebeard.'

Source: (not named but in fact Colin Simpson) in Desmond Stewart, T. E. Lawrence, 1977

Early 1920s

That a sketch by Augustus John of a nude man, published in the TEL Society Newsletter No. 49, Spring 1999, is a sketch of T. E. Lawrence.

Source: the attribution was made at the Olympia Antiques Fair, 1999


That in 1928 Lawrence served on secret Intelligence missions in Afghanistan.

Source: Empire News, 1927

Supplementary source: John Bruce, in unpublished testimony and in the Scottish Field, August 1938.


That, shortly before Lawrence's death in May 1935, Henry Williamson had written to him to propose a meeting with Adolf Hitler, and that Lawrence's last telegram to Williamson to come 'wet or fine' implies that Lawrence viewed the idea with interest and perhaps enthusiasm.

Source: Henry Williamson in T. E. Lawrence by his Friends, 1937


That the motor-cycle accident that caused Lawrence's death was not accidental: he was assassinated.

Source: journalists and others writing sensational material.


Online: That there was a 'sermon' at Lawrence's funeral

Source: Tom Beaumont, in P. Knightley and C. Simpson, The Secret Lives of Lawrence of Arabia, 1969

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